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*^ c 3 State Library 

NORTH CAROLINA GEOLOGICAL AND 
ECONOMIC SURVEY 

JOSEPH HYDE PRATT, STATE GEOLOGIST 



BULLETIN NO. 17 



TERRACING OF FARM LANDS 



BY 

W. W. ASHE 




RALEIGH 
E. M. UZZELL & Co., PXJBLIC PsiNTEBS 

1908 



TERRACING OF FARM LANDS 



BY 

W. W. ASHE 



North Carolina State Library 
Raleigh 

NORTH CAROLINA GEOLOGICAL AND 
ECONOMIC SURVEY 

JOSEPH HYDE PRATT, STATE GEOLOGIST 






BULLETIN NO. 17 



TERRACING OF FARM LANDS 



by 

W. W. ASHE 




RALEIGH 

E. M. Uzzell & Co., Public Pkintees 

1908 



GEOLOGICAL BOARD 

Goveenoe R. B. Glenn, ex officio Chairman 

Henbt E. Fries.... -Raleigh. 

Feank R. Hewitt.. ' Winston-Salem. 

Hugh MacRae Asheville. 

Feank Wood Wilmington. 

Edenton 

Joseph Hyde Pratt, State Geologist 

Chapel Hill. 






LETTER OF TRANSMITTAL 



Chapel Hill, N. C, March 1, 1908. 
To His Excellency, Hon. Bobert B. Glenn, 

Governor of North Carolina. 
Sir.— The report by Mr. W. W. Ashe, Forester, on Terracing of Farm 
Lands, which I have- the honor to submit for publication as Bulletin No. 
17 of the North Carolina Geological and Economic Survey series, should 
be of especial interest at this time when so much attention and thought 
are being given to the subject of the conservation of our natural resources. 

Yours respectfully, 

Joseph Hyde Pratt, 

State Geologist. 



CONTENTS 



PAGE 
9 
Preface 

Introduction 

Coastal Plain Region 12 

Piedmont Plateau Region 13 

Mountain Region 13 

Value of the Soils of the Piedmont Region 15 

Extent of Soil Erosion 16 

Cause of Soil Erosion 17 

Characteristics of Soils 20 

Of) 

Texture 

Moisture Capacity 30 

Humus 

Effect of Erosion on Quality of Soil 31 

Soils Subject to Erosion 22 

Heavy Red Clays 33 

Yellow Sand Clays 23 

Mica Red Clays 34 

Absorption of Water by 'Soils 35 

Methods of Lessening Erosion 36 

Dikes or Flat Dikes 36 

Hillside Ditches 26 

Terraced Land 36 

The Mangum Dike 37 

The McLendon Dike 37 

Hillside Ditches 37 

Terraces ^ 

Objections to' Terraces ~ 8 

Construction of Terraces 39 

Locating Terrace Lines 30 

Use of Triangle 31 

Building up the Terraces °' w 

Levelling 33 

Reclamation of Washed Land 3 * 

Summary 35 

List of Publications 37 



ILLUSTRATIONS 



PLATE FACING PAGE 

I. Sketch map of North Carolina showing the three physiographic 

divisions and the distribution of the three geologic formations. 13 
II. Deforested and terraced mountains in the Province of Shan-Si near 
the city of Wu-T'ai-Hien, North China. This shows that soil 
erosion and soil preservation are by no means problems local 
to the Southern States. (Photograph, courtesy of Mr. Bailey 
Willis) 15 

III. Incipient or flat erosion largely confined to the shoulders of slopes. 

Vertical gulleys are just beginning to form SO 

IV. Characteristic erosion of the heavy red clays of the Piedmont pla- 

teau region in which vertical V-shaped gulleys have been 
formed. It is difficult to reclaim for farming purposes land 
in this condition. The soil, however, is often good and some- 
times can be reclaimed more profitably than new land can be 
cleared 22 

V. Characteristic erosion of the mica red clays and silt soils with the 

formation of vertically walled gorges which has resulted in the 
complete destruction of the soil for farming purposes 24 

VI. a, A steep, well terraced slope in middle North Carolina. Although 

the terraces are narrow, they are nearly level and erosion is 
slight. (Courtesy of Bureau of Soils.) 6, Incomplete terraces 
well located but too far apart, the rise between them being too 
great. At least one intervening terrace should have been con- 
structed 28 

FIGUBE 

1. Triangle used in locating dikes; AB, base board 10 ft. 8 in. long; 

AC and CB, side pieces 7 ft. 6 in. long; BE, cross-bar; L shows 
the location of the level; plum bob hangs from C to middle of 
AB; M is an inch-high wooden, projection 31 

2. a, Terrace in process of formation, using level dikes and hillside 

plowing. A, dike; B, lower slope or face of dike; C, upper or 
ditch slope of dike, b, Completed or level terrace 33 



PREFACE 



The subject of terracing of farm lands is one that should be more 
seriously considered by the farmers of North Carolina, especially those in 
the Piedmont section of the State where the farm lands are more subject 
to erosion. This is one of the methods that can be satisfactorily employed 
in conserving the soil and, for certain areas, no better or cheaper means 
can be devised. Where attempts have been made to use this method and 
they have not resulted as favorably as expected, it has usually been that 
sufficient care and attention were not given to the location and con- 
struction of the terrace. They have been either too steep, too far apart, 
or had too much grade on their upper sides. 

These points in connection with terracing are discussed in detail in Mr. 
Ashe's report and it is hoped that this short report at this time will be the 
means of creating a more general use of terracing in the Piedmont 
section. 

Joseph Hyde Peatt, 

State Geologist. 



^ JB^^^M^ 



INTRODUCTION 

By Joseph Hyde Pkatt. 

The subject of soil conservation is one of considerable importance to 
the people of North Carolina, especially in the Piedmont section where 
the soils are composed of heavy red clays, yellow sand clays and mica red 
clays which are low in humus. As a general introduction to the subject 
of the conservation of these soils by terracing, it may be well to give a 
general outline of the physiography and geology of the State with special 
reference to the Piedmont plateau section. 

As one travels across the State of North Carolina, from its eastern 
shores to its western boundary, it will be noticed that when about half the 
distance has been passed, there is left behind a region which is very level 
or gently undulating, the surface of which is covered with sand and loam 
soils, from which hard rocks are almost entirely absent; and there is 
entered another region, the surface of which becomes more and more hilly 
until it culminates in the high mountains in the western portion of the 
State, and that the soil is mingled more or less with hard, granitic, slaty 
rocks. It will also be noticed that the geological formations of the 
eastern half of the State are radically different from those of the central 
portions of the State, which are in turn different from the mountain 
regions. 

These are the three great physiographic divisions in the State which 
have been designated as the coastal plain, Piedmont plateau and moun- 
tain regions respectively, whose boundaries in a general way are rather 
sharply defined. The ages of the rock formations, instead of being con- 
tiguous, are widely separated ; that covering the coastal plain being some 
of the most recent formations while those of the Piedmont plateau are 
amongst the oldest, with the exception of the limited red sandstones of 
the Triassic areas. 

These three physiographic divisions are indicated in a general way on 
the map (PL I), together with the minor geologic rock formations of 
the Piedmont plateau and mountain regions. In the coastal plain region 
the formations have to be shown practically as a unit for the reason that 
the rock formations lie one above the other so that, although there are at 
least five successive geological periods, only the uppermost is exposed 
except here and there in isolated places, and along the banks of such 



~^-" !—■ *-*w^^^^^s— m 



12 INTRODUCTION. 

rivers as the Cape Fear and Roanoke, where these have cut down and left 
high steep bluffs, exposing a number of geologic formations. 

^Coastal Plain Region.— This region represents the most recent geologic 
formations composed of gravels, sands, clays and marls arranged m 
nearly horizontal layers with the finer material nearer the coast. Along 
its eastern borders this region contains the sounds and bays, the sand 
dunes and ridges, the swamps and marshes, and other characteristics of 
a seashore region. Further inland it is gently undulating and has more 
of the upland and less of the marsh and towards its western boundary the 
swamps disappear almost entirely, the upland predominates and the sur- 
face becomes more undulating and even hilly in places. The soils toward 
the east are composed of fine sand and silt, while nearer the western 
border of the region they 'contain a larger proportion of coarse sand or 
gravel mingled with clay. The extent of this region is from Kaleigh 
eastward to the coast, with its western boundaries roughly defined as 
extending from the western part of Northampton through Franklin, 
Wake, Cumberland, Chatham, Moore, Montgomery and Anson counties. 
Along the western border of the coastal plain region there are occa- 
sional outcrops of hard granites' and slates exposed along the beds of 
streams, where the once overlying sands and clays have been washed away. 
In the southeastern counties of this region limestone is exposed at the 
surface along the banks of streams in a large number of localities. 

With the exception of the extreme western portion of the coastal plain 
region the subject of soil preservation is not a serious question on account 
of* the character of the soil and the flatness of the land. The western 
portion, however, has some problems to consider similar to the adjoining- 
Piedmont region, as the land has become more hilly and the soils contain 
a greater proportion of clay. 

Piedmont Plateau Region,.— The Piedmont plateau region, extending 
westward from the coastal plain region to the mountain region, is about 
I-;, miles in width and has an average elevation approximating 900 feet. 
Crossing this Piedmont plateau obliquely are a series of geologic for- 
mations which arc in general parallel to the mountains and seashore. 
The most eastern of these formations is a narrow belt of Triassic sand- 
stone and shales which lias a maximum width of about 15 miles, and 
extends from Oxford in Granville County across the State through por- 
tions of Wake, Durham, Chatham, Moore, Montgomery, Richmond and 
\ ,,,,„, counties. On the northeast of this sandstone and between it and 
the coastal plain region there are considerable areas of granite extending 
across portions of Wake, Franklin, Warren, Vance and Granville counties. 
To the west there is an older formation of metamorphosed slates and 



INTRODUCTION. 13 

schists which cross through Person, Orange, Randolph, Montgomery, 
Stanly, and Union counties and has a general width of from 20 to 40 
miles. Just west of this there is an area of granites, between which and 
the mountain region are gneisses, probably 'Archean. Near the western 
boundary of the Piedmont plateau region is the second of the two sand- 
stone belts which is much more limited in area than the one to the east 
and extends from the Virginia line across portions of Rockingham and 
Stokes counties, having a maximum width of from 4 to 5 miles. 

It is this region that the question of preservation or conservation of soil 
is of vital importance to the agricultural interests of the State and the 
descriptions given in the following pages regarding terracing apply 
largely to this Piedmont region, although they can be adapted to the 
coastal plain and the mountain regions. 

Mountain Region. — The mountain region includes the Blue Ridge, 
Great Smokies, and the country between, which is cut across by 'the 
numerous cross ranges separated by narrow valleys and deep gorges. 
The average elevation of this region is about 2700 feet above the sea 
level, but the summits of many ridges and peaks are over 5000 feet. A 
considerable number of peaks reach a height of over 6000 feet, the highest 
of which is Mount Mitchell with an elevation of 6711 feet. Over the 
larger part of this region are to be found the older crystalline rocks, 
gneisses and granites, probably Archean, which are greatly folded and 
turned on their edges. On the western and eastern borders of this 
mountain region approximately along the line of the Blue Ridge and 
Great Smokies there are two narrow belts of younger rocks consisting of 
limestones, shales, and conglomerates and the metamorphosed marbles, 
quartzites and slates. 

In this region, as in the Piedmont plateau, the rocks are decayed to a 
considerable extent and thus have produced deep soils which vary in 
character according to the rocks from which they have been derived. The 
soils are for the most part porous and fertile, affording a luxuriant vege- 
tation, in many places the slopes of the mountains being covered by heavy 
virgin forests. Where the rocks that have decomposed contained a large 
percentage of aluminous minerals, a large amount of clay has been 
formed and such clay soils characterize a large portion of both the Pied- 
mont and mountain regions. It is these soils that are very liable to 
erosion. 



X. C. GEOLOGICAL AND ECONOMIC SURVEY 



BULLETIN NO. \"J . PLATE II 




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TERRACING OF FARM LANDS. 

By W. W. Ashe. 



VALUE OF THE SOILS OF THE PIEDMONT KEGION. 
The soils of North Carolina constitute one of its chief natural assets. 
Like the forests and the water power of the streams, they are natural 
resources, which, when destroyed through short-sightedness or ignorance, 
can be replaced only at enormous cost, and frequently not at all. For this 
reason their preservation and utilization is of the utmost importance and 
is essential to the development of the resources of the State, to their 
maximum earning capacity. The conservation, therefore of such re- 
sources for the welfare of the people of the commonwealth represents an 
obligation which neither the State nor the individual should neglect. 

Notwithstanding the rapid growth of cotton manufacturing and wood- 
working establishments, agriculture still employs more persons than all 
other industries. The value of its products in 1905 was $110 000 000 
compared with $142,000,000 for the products of all other employments; 
and there is every indication that hereafter the rate of increase in the 
value of farm products will be no less than at present. 

In the Piedmont section, where an exceptionally good local market is 
being developed, this rate will undoubtedly increase, just as it has done 
m the larger manufacturing states, through the opportunities offered by 
diversified farming. The values of the farming lands of the Piedmont 
region are at present low, and their future appreciation will be propor- 
tional to their earning capacity. 

The rolling uplands of this region constitute the greatest portion of its 
cultivated area. The alluvials, which form the bottoms along the streams 
are of comparatively limited extent, but they are, where in o- 00 d condition' 
far more productive than the upland soils. This is due partly to their 
origin. The alluvials have been built up by the fertile sediments which 
came from the hills before the timber was cut and the land 'cleared 
Their enrichment comes then, in part at least, from the deposit of the 
most fertile material which was washed by heavy rains from the slopes 
The same process of erosion of the uplands continues to-day but with a 
hundredfold more activity than existed before the forests were cut. When 
the hills were forested this washing or erosion from the slopes was slight 
being hindered by the leaf mould, which had accumulated and covered 



16 TERRACING OF FARM LANDS. 



the soil. In the change from "new ground" to "old field" the leaf 
mould has een exhausted, and the eroding power of the heavy r ns 

Iter n i" Jearly b0me ^^ ^ the muM y Streams - The 

r It not " 7 ^^ Sl ° PeS ^^ gUlHed ' and -Poverishes 

all. It no longer accumulates for the enrichment of the valleys • for the 
most valua e portion the silt and finely divided organic matters sw p 

SttudtanTs M e StreamS ' ° r ^ ^ ° CCaSi0naIly Settle * **- - 
great mud banks . Th coarser sai](i and . g d ited 

vials injuring instead of enriching them, as was the case when only the 

fine black so,! was deposited. Thus erosion of the cultivated slope! de 

troys both slope and alluvial bottom, and what was under purely natural 

condemns a constructive process, has under the influence of man become 

menace The retaining of this fertile soil on the slopes where it is s 

and silt" t 7 r^" th6ir P r0ducti ^; ^ssen the deposit of sand 
and silt on the bottoms; and add to their earning power and value. Any 
system of management which will conserve the slopes will augment the 
earning power and increase the value of both hillside and valley! 

EXTENT OF SOIL EROSION. 
The erosion of soil from hillside farms probably assumes in middle 
^orth Carolina greater importance than elsewhere in the United States 
It is very active in portions of several of the other Southern States' 
especially on the red clays of Northern Georgia and on the upland silts 
of Mississippi and Tennessee. It demands greater consideration in Pied- 
mont, JSorth Carolina, however, on account of the comparatively small 
area of level land, necessitating extensive hillside tillage (see PI I) 
A very large proportion of the farming lands are situated on slopes, many 
of them on steep slopes, from which erosion or soil transportation is con- 
tinuous. Erosion thus becomes a problem that has to be considered on 
some portion of nearly every farm, while the difficulties of successfully 
preventing or lessening it are augmented by the prevailing steepness of 
the slopes. So general is it and so damaging in its effects that it is prob- 
ably the most serious drawback to profitable farming on the « red clays » 
It is difficult to determine the extent of loss occasioned by it, but on land of 
moderate slope, it certainly amounts to several dollars an acre 1 - the loss 
rapidly increasing as the slopes become steeper, the erosion more rapid 
and more difficult to prevent, and the earning power of the land reduced 
in consequence. This loss does not include the cost of maintaining dikes, 

'On ,,„„ cultlvated by ,„,, ; rlter ,,„. yleldi wMh cotton 
dollars ax> acre less from slop, land , from aearly ieyel land which dicl not erode 



EXTENT OF SOIL EROSION. 17 

or ditches, or the smaller yield on account of the land occupied by ditches, 
but refers only to the smaller crop yield from land situated on slopes com- 
pared with that from land in a level position (see Pis. Ill, IV and V). 

It is evident, then, that when a large portion of a farm is hilly or 
rolling and is subject to washing or erosion, the cost of maintaining a soil 
which is tillable and free from gullies becomes a large drain upon its in- 
come. The productivity is reduced by the constant removal of the most 
fertile soil. The land owner must realize that every stream of muddy 
water that flows from his fields lessens their fertility and, therefore, their 
value. 

When the soils are deep and the erosion slight, especially when it is 
superficial or flat erosion, which is characteristic of the early stages on 
the heavy clays, the injury is not permanent, since deeper plowing can 
again give the necessary depth, and the addition of humus can replace the 
dark colored top soil. But it is a costly process. 

In the case of shallow soils, which are frequently eroded until the rock is 
exposed, especially on the granites and the hardest gneisses of the middle 
portion of the State, the soil, which has been washed away, can be re- 
placed only by the slow decomposition of the underlying rock. When 
much eroded, the value of such a soil is largely destroyed for farming 
purposes. 

Large V-shaped gullies, whether on deep or shallow soils, greatly lessen, 
frequently permanently destroy, the value of the soil for farming (PI. 
IV). There are thousands of acres of the red lands in middle North 
Carolina which have been gullied in this manner, and their cultivation, 
at least temporarily, abandoned. Fortunately much of it has been stocked 
by volunteer pines, which not only have checked further erosion, but in 
many cases have been the means of promoting the filling in of the gullies. 

Such a system of managing farm lands, however, is economically bad. 
It could exist as a system only where both land and labor were cheap, and 
where fresh, newly cleared land was available to take the place of that 
which has been abandoned on account of the gullies. This condition has 
now ceased to exist. Labor can be more profitably employed than in 
clearing new ground to replace worn and eroded fields. Moreover, the 
land which has already been cleared is usually the best land, and even if 
badly worn, its reclamation can generally be effected more cheaply than 
new land can be cleared; while it is possible, when once reclaimed, to 
maintain it by proper cultural methods, and greatly lessen or even pre- 
vent future erosion. 

Two other points should be considered. Forest land is just beginning 
to have remunerative earning power. The steady rise in the value of 



fiorth Car- r ^ e LlDr *& 



IS TERRACING OF FARM LANDS. 

stumpage assures its continued appreciation. In many localities the pro- 
portion of forest is already too low, and timber for farm use must be pur- 
chased. It would seem sound policy to maintain in timber those areas 
which, from steepness of slope, stoniness or shallowness of soil, are least 
fit for farming. 

Any addition to the area of uncultivated or waste land means more 
idle capital upon which the expenses of taxes and interest must be borne 
without return, while at the same time it is subject to continued depre- 
ciation. A better management of smaller cleared areas, whose fertility 
is carefully maintained, will yield more satisfactory financial returns. 
This also affords a better indication of the fertility of the soil, more 
favorably impresses settlers and prospective purchasers, and gives a farm 
quicker sale and a better value. 

CAUSE OF SOIL EEOSIOK 
The cause of erosion is the failure of the soil, in a hilly country, to 
absorb the rainwater which falls upon it. 2 If the rainfall is all absorbed, 
as by a coarse sandy soil, which is largely the case in the sand hill por- 
tions of Eockingham, Moore, Bladen, Cumberland, and Scotland counties, 
there is no run-off and no erosion. As the soil becomes finer in texture, 
more compact, and correspondingly less pervious, the rain is not absorbed 
as fast as it falls, and the very smallness of the grains which form the 
soil facilitates its transportation whenever there is sufficient slope. The 
impact of the rain drops loosens the fine cohering particles of soil and, 
unless absorption takes place, the drops gather into small streams taking 
with them, as they flow, the finest particles of soil, while the larger and 
heavier grains are left behind As soon as the streams gather power, 
either by the added volume of water or by increased slope, they, likewise, 
begin cutting loose and transporting the soil, and at a constantly accele- 
rating rate, since the eroding and transporting action of water is in- 
creased by the increase in its volume. It is also multiplied four times by 
doubling the slope. That is, if one hill has twice the steepness of another 
it will erode with four times the rapidity, provided, the soils are similar; 
and it may also be stated that the difficulty of preventing erosion increases 
at a yet higher rate. So rapidly does erosion increase with greater 
velocity of the water, that whenever the velocity of a stream of water is 
doubled, as by increase in slope and added volume, its transporting or 
eroding power increases sixty-four times. For this reason the steeper 
land erodes very much more easily than that of gentle gradient. Since 

'i hi paragraph, with sonic changes, is taken from ;i paper by the writer, on Turbidity 
of Potomac River. Bulletin 102, li. S. Geol. Survey. 



CAUSE OE SOIL EROSION. 19 

the steepest slope is usually on the middle of a hill, the most rapid erosion 
takes place there. The heaviest transported material is deposited by the 
slackened current on the more gently sloping base, or on the bottom lands, 
while the lighter silt and clay is taken to the streams. For these reasons, 
it is extremely difficult to prevent erosion of steep land which has a soil 
like that of the micaceous clays and silts, deficient in binding power, yet 
not freely permeable, or, which has a compact clay soil formed of small 
particles which are freely moved when once loosened. 

Erosion is more rapid in the Piedmont region than in either the coastal 
plain or in the higher mountains. The nearly level topography and pre- 
vailing sandy soils of the coastal plain are inimical to erosion (see PI. I). 

In general, erosion is not active in the higher mountains, although the 
steep slopes are favorable. This is due largely to the following reasons : 
(1) The prevailing soils are more sandy and, on account of their physical 
texture, have a naturally high absorptive power for rainfall. The heavy 
soils of the mountains, as the red clays, are in many places badly eroded. 
The Eed Hill section of Mitchell County, the clays at Balsam Gap, the 
Upper Valley of the Little Tennessee River, and the red clays of Cherokee 
County, and elsewhere, have been more or less deeply seamed. (2) The 
fact that grazing is extensively practiced and grass occupies so important 
a place in the crop rotation contributes not a little to protect slopes. 
The sod, after being grazed for several years, is plowed under and corn 
planted upon it. This sod adds a large amount of humus which further 
tends to promote permeability and maintain the absorptive power for 
heavy rainfall. (3) In the high mountains, the coolness of the air and 
the frequently high humidity are other important factors operating to 
minimize the tendency to erode. These furnish conditions highly fav- 
orable for the growth of grass; they likewise retard the destruction of 
humus in the soil, which takes place by the natural process of nitrification 
and oxidation. For this reason the humus of the soils of the mountains 
is more stable than in the soils of the Piedmont. The climate determines 
the condition which leads to its formation and likewise retards its decay 
when once formed. This climatic favorableness increases with the alti- 
tude, and is also greatest on northerly slopes. 

These same reasons explain why erosion is mere rapid in the Piedmont 
of the South than in the Northern States. The level surface of the Lake 
States and the States of the Middle West presents fewer exposed features. 
In the more broken region, of the northeast many of the widely distributed 
soils are permeable. The deep freezing and thawing of winter increase 
their porousness. The high humidity and cooler climate not only furnish 
suitable conditions for the growth of grass, but the soils, being of lower 



20 TERRACING OF FARM LANDS. 

oxidizing power, tend to preserve the humus. An additional and import- 
ant factor is, that, not only is the rainfall to which plowed land is ex- 
posed less than in the southeast, but a considerable proportion is in the 
form of snow much of which is absorbed from beneath as it melts. The 
rainfall of the North is from 20 to 40 inches; that of Piedmont North 
Carolina is from 45 to 55, one-third of it, 14 to 17 inches, falling during 
the three summer months of June, July and August, in heavy summer 
showers. 

It is evident that the soils of the Piedmont are advantageously situated 
for excessive erosion when compared with farming lands of the northern 
portion of the Mississippi Valley and the northeast. The heavier, concen- 
trated rainfall, light snowfall, long warm growing season, and high oxi- 
dizing capacity of the Piedmont soils render them more exposed to erosion 
than soils of the northeast with similar slopes; while the deficiency of 
many of them in lateral cohesion, as the mica silts, is another favorable 
factor. 

These features, however, are those which give the soils of the Piedmont 
their highest values. The long growing season renders possible the pro- 
duction of two or even three crops of many kinds ; while the rainfall, if 
conserved by storing in the soils, is usually amply sufficient for their 
maturing and can be used beneficially in place of being a destructive force. 
Their oxidizing capacity possibly explains their warmth and earliness, 
Their ease of tillage proceeds from their friability, while their fineness of 
grain is one of the important elements of their fertility. 

CHAEACTBRISTICS OP SOILS. 

The essential characteristics of a productive soil are that it shall have a 
certain fineness of grain or texture; maintain an equable amount of 
moisture ; and possess a suitable proportion of humus. 

Texture.- — In general, soils of medium fine texture are the most de- 
sirable, though not the strongest soils. They offer a large amount of sur- 
face for root action, yet are capable of maintaining a high content of 
available soil moisture. Soils of too close texture bake and puddle badly 
and are difficult to work. The red clays are generally not too heavy to be 
readily worked; the mica clays work easily. Soils which are too coarse 
textured are leachy and dry. 

Moisture Capacity. — A soil must not be too wet, as are moist undrained 
bottoms. An excess of water causes lack of aeration of roots, and retards 
the decay of humus. It produces the condition known as sourness. The 
other extreme, a deficiency of moisture, checks growth. The upland soils 
of the Piedmont suffer more from hick of moisture than from an excess. 



N. C. GEOLOGICAL AND ECONOMIC SURVEY 



BLTLLETIN NO. 17. PLATE III 




EFFECT OF EROSION ON QUALITY OF SOIL. 



21 



Their subsoil drainage is generally good, probably on account of the low 
water table which normally stands in summer 40 to 60 feet below the 
surface. Drainage is more deficient in the heavy red clays than any other 
of the slope soils. 3 Nearly all of the Piedmont soils are dry during the 
autumn, in spite of the usually heavy summer precipitation. 

Humus.— It is by means of humus that the proper conditions are se- 
cured for the development of soil bacteria, which are necessary to render 
the soil's fertility available for the use of the growing crop. Humus is 
also directly, or indirectly, through the growth of legumes, the source of 
most soil nitrogen. It largely increases the water storage capacity of the 
soil, especially the top soil, and likewise its permeability, tending to re- 
move any excess of surface water, but retaining it until needed during 
dry weather. It also loosens a clay soil so that it is more easily penetrated 
by the roots of crops; it lessens puddling and baking of the surface, mak- 
ing tillage easier and the need for it less frequent. 

EFFECT OF EKOSION ON QUALITY OF SOIL. 

The effect of erosion is to injure the texture of the heavier soils by 
eroding the sandier surface soil. Since so large a portion of the rainfall 
runs off, there is a decided loss in moisture, especially in the autumn 
when it is badly needed. The humus and small clay particles being the 
lightest constituents of the soil, are most easily borne off in the water. 
The most evident characteristic of an eroded red clay field is its " raw- 
ness " or deficiency in humus. The muddy water contains, in addition to 
the humus and the fine particles of soil, a large amount of material in 
solution. It has been estimated * that the amount of matter carried off in 
solution in the Potomac river water, which, however, is not so muddy a 
stream as those of the Carolina Piedmont, during the period of a year, is 
equal to four hundred pounds of matter for every acre of farmed land 
drained by the river, and the plant food in it is about equal to that re- 
moved by a crop. The amount of fertilizer yearly added just about equals 
the soluble matter so removed. While this soluble material is replaced 
with about the same rapidity as removed, the fine particles of silt and clay 
are replaced more slowly. 

The conditions on the James Eiver in Virginia more closely resemble 
those which exist on the streams of North Carolina. It has been esti- 
mated 5 that in a flood with a 10-foot crest 275,000 to 300,000 cubic yards 

"Drainage of the Iredell clay soils is very deficient. The lands are too nearly level to 
he subject to erosion. 

* Bulletin 192, U. S. Geol. Survey, Potomac River Basin, p. 292. 
6 Rept. Chief of Engineers, U. S. Army for 1885, part 2, p. 947. 



22 TERRACING OF FARM LANDS. 

of solid matter (earth and humus) are removed during twenty-four 
hours. Since the water in the James Eiver attains or exceeds this stage 
during at least 10 days of the year, in addition to many other days when 
the turbidity of the water is very high, but the stage lower, there must be 
from 3,000,000 to 4,000,000 cubic yards of soil washed yearly from the 
farming lands on the James Eiver situated above Eichmond. 

The Eoanoke Eiver probably bears as large an amount of solid matter 
as the James Eiver. Only a small portion of its watershed, the Dan 
Eiver, lies in North Carolina. The two North Carolina streams, of which 
the best data are at present available showing the extent of erosion, are 
the Neuse and the Yadkin rivers. 

The influence of heavier rainfall, more broken topography and heavier 
soil is noticeable in the greater erosion on the basin of the Yadkin than 
on that of the Neuse. More than 850 pounds of soil are yearly washed 
from every acre of land on the Yadkin Eiver above Salisbury. 6 Of 
this more than 125 pounds are organic matter, the balance being mineral 
soil. In addition there is a large amount of plant food contained in the 
matter in solution which amounts to more than 150 pounds a year from 
each acre. More than 380 pounds of soil are yearly washed from the 
Neuse above Selma. Of this, more than 50 pounds are organic matter. 
The organic matter is humus, which must be replaced. In addition to 
this solid matter there is a large amount of soluble salts washed out, 
amounting to more than 100 pounds per year from each acre. 

The soil and soluble matter yearly washed in the rivers from the Pied- 
mont, North Carolina, with an area of about 12,000,000 acres, certainly 
amounts to more than 4,000,000 tons, and the plant food in it has a 
value of more than $2,000,000. 

SOILS SUBJECT TO EEOSION. 

While there is no soil type in the middle portion of North Carolina free 
from erosion, it is more active in some types than in others. Since it is 
primarily due to the failure of the soil to absorb heavy rainfall, which 
instead collects into flowing streams, it is the fine-grained, closely textured 
soils that are most subject to it. As the soil becomes more porous, by the 
grains being larger, the rainfall is more quickly absorbed and a heavier 
precipitation is required to produce a surplus and cause run-off. The 
actual capacity of a clay soil or fine silt for water is greater than that of 
a sandy soil, since its pore space is greater. The difficulty is, as King 

"Amount of mineral matter eroded from the watershed of Yadkin and Neuse rivers is 
based on the turbidity record of tin- TI. S. Geol. Survey. Organic matter based ou 
analyses by N. C. Geol. Survey. 



N. C. GEOLOGICAL AND ECONOMIC SURVEY 



BULLETIN NO. \"J . PLATE IV 




X s 



a X 
X 



ffi > 5 



SOILS SUBJECT TO EROSION. 23 

has pointed out, that a heavy rain, especially a summer shower on a dry 
soil, quickly puddles the surface of the soil and the absorption of water 
is checked until the air can be gradually expelled. This takes place far 
more slowly on the heavy clays than on the open sands. 

Erosion then, attains its maximum on steep slopes, with heavy clay 
soils deficient in humus; and it is at a minimum on level sands. 

The three classes of soil which are most subject to erosion are the heavy 
red clays, the yellow sand clays, and the micaceous (isinglass) soils. 
Each of these erodes in a characteristic manner. 

Heavy Red Clays" — These clays are frequently nearly homogeneous in 
texture, that is, have their grains nearly of a size, although they contain a 
variable amount of coarse sand, the proportion of which is large in the top 
soil of the loamy phases. In its early stages, erosion of the heavy red 
clays takes place as broad shallow "washes," or "galls" especially on 
shoulders of the slope, or the steepest points. Plate III shows character- 
istic incipient erosion of this character. When constant tillage is taking 
place, these are " galled," " washed," or worn spots of the fields, and they 
are indicated chiefly by their unproductivity. A deficiency in humus is 
often evident. Later stages of erosion seam these soils into parallel V- 
shaped gullies which may ultimately descend from near the summit to the 
foot of even moderately gentle slopes. Plate IV illustrates an advanced 
stage of erosion, when value for agricultural purposes has been largely 
destroyed. 

Yellow Sand Clays (Cecil Loams in Part). — These erode in much the 
same manner as the heavier red soils, but usually less easily. They are 
not homogeneous in texture, but contain a considerable amount of coarse 
sand with very fine-grained clay, 8 and generally have a naturally low 

7 The behavior of the soils of Piedmont North Carolina towards erosion, seems to be 
slightly affected by their origin. The clays, whether from hornblende-gneiss, diorite, 
serpentine, gabhro, or other basic rocks, erode similarly to those from the granites and 
acid rocks. Those soils richest in available potash and lime are usually more productive 
than those deficient in these materials if physical condition is the same. They will 
consequently often contain more humus and exhibit less erosion on gentle slopes. Other 
qualities being the same, the texture is, apparently, the determining factor. 

The red clays of the Piedmont are classified by the U. S. Bureau of Soils, as Cecil 
clays. As they become sandier they are referred to lighter members of the Cecil series. 
When they are derived from mica-schists, and contain a large amount of finely divided 
mica, they are classified as Cecil silts, or Cecil mica loams. These are the mica red 
clays. The soils derived from sericite and talc schists have much the same texture and 
erode in the same general manner as the mica soils. 

8 It is probable that the mixture of sand and clay in some of these soils is in the 
same proportion as that used in the construction of the sand-clay road. Enough fine 
clay is present to fill the interstices between the sand. Such a mixture was noticed by 
Orris Brown of Norfolk, Va., to make a road, the surface of which was almost imper- 
vious to rains, and the mixture has been found natural in many places in the Southern 
States by the Oflice of Public Roads. Soils having their sand and clay content, about 



g>4 TERRACING OE FARM LANDS. 

humus content, Erosion is active even on the gentlest slopes, forming 
V-shaped gullies much like those of the heavy red clays, but broader. The 
heavv sand content of this soil is frequently deposited as a sand bar, or 
fan over the more level land at the foot of the slope, or on the bottoms. 

The sand-clay soils are not generally distributed, but occur most abund- 
antly in the eastern part of the Piedmont where they are tobacco and 
cotton lands. They extend in the Eoanoke Kiver section well down into 
the coastal plain. A phase of these soils, which is much prized for farm- 
ing is the grav loam or sand top soil with a clay subsoil. 

Mica Red Clays (Cecil Silt Loams, etc.). -Clays of this type are more 
seriously affected by erosion than any other soils of North Carolina. They 
contain in addition to the mica, which is extremely finely divided, a large 
amount of other silty particles which, with a lack of horizontal lami- 
nation render the soil decidedly deficient in cohesive qualities. On ac- 
count of their silty character, they are permeable soils, and, under good 
tillage and with a large humus content, erosion is largely restricted to 
uniform soil transportation— a considerable amount of muddy run-on- 
occurring during heavy rains, but few definite gullies being formed. 
When gullies once form, however, and are not promptly checked by proper 
cultural methods, erosion proceeds rapidly even on most gentle slopes; 
the gully deepens rapidly towards the drainage line and recedes on nearly 
the same level to the initial point of erosion. On account of the loose, 
friable nature of the silt and red micaceous soils they are readily under- 
mined by running water and present in the later stages of erosion deep, 
vertically walled gorges. Since the mica-schist, from which this is 
derived, has decayed to a great depth, frequently to the natural drainage 
plain at depths of 50 to 60 feet, the bottom of the eroded gorge lies on a 
level with the draining stream. Plate V shows a characteristically eroded 
gully in the mica clays. Imm ediately along the foot of the Blue Ridge 

ITtto proportion of the sand-clay road mixture would have low permeability, and be 

BU TLmTTTo cTarcontent, not only in this soil, but in the beavy red clays as 
wen Und probably a much larger proportion in the yellow clays in the beeswax and In 
SSwSad^oS) 11 extremely fine grained or colloidal In texture. This clay is so 
S?SS "it settles with the greatest slowness even from perfectly quiet water. It is 
Z ;• cause of t£ ^haVacteristfc turbidity of Piedmont streams even during dry seasons 

nS^*2y?SJ^"« ^S« areas of unconsolidated silts which erode 
w,tn even greater facility than these soils. Since they are subject, however to only 

nf ,,,Tn" r n thev are not affected by surface erosion. They are easily undermined 
infrequent *»™^™£ rf dniwbnck to the maintenance of Irrigation 

«tcS A iSTJS of the excessive turbidity of western streams during high water 

" I,;,,,' "such soils, the silt burden In these streams at times -»"£*■» u 
muctL as r, per cent, Only in Mississippi and western Tennessee are , then to be 
Sund in the east silt soils more disastrously affected by surface erosion than the mica- 
clays of the Carolina piedmont. 



N. C. GEOLOGICAL AND ECONOMIC SURVEY 



BULLETIN NO. \"J . PLATE V 




■j*r 






*&+ 






Jm 



V: 






: :\ 



CHARACTERISTIC EROSION OF THE MICA RED CLAYS AND SILT SOILS. VERTICALLY WALLED GORGES 
ARE QUICKLY FORMED IN THESE LOOSE SOILS WHEN UNDERMINING ONCE BEGINS, RESULTING IN THE 
COMPLETE DESTRUCTION OF THE SOIL FOR FARMING PURPOSES. 



ABSORPTION OF WATER BY SOILS. 25 

there are extensive areas of such soils. Similar areas, but smaller, occur 
locally eastward to the very edge of the coastal plain. While usually not 
distinguished from the other red clays, the presence of the mica or the 
small particles of sericite or talc, the sparkle of which is very noticeable 
in the soils when dry and reduced to dust, and the slightly greasy feel 
which is also due to the mica or talc schist, will serve to identify them. 
These soils are very friable and far easier to cultivate than the heavy 
clays. They drain more freely and puddle more lightly, but form a heavy 
sticky mud when wet; become dry relatively more quickly after heavy 
rains; and crumble rather easily when dry; are warmer and earlier but 
difficult to maintain at a high productive capacity on account of the rapid 
oxidation of humus. 

These three broad classes are the most extensively distributed types of 
heavy soil which lie on slopes in middle North Carolina. As these soils 
pass into sandy or gravelly phases, there is a corresponding increase in 
permeability to rainfall and lessened erosion, though even the sandy loams 
in the Piedmont, when underlaid by compact, less pervious subsoils (gray 
topsoil with clay subsoil) erode to some extent because the porous topsoil 
lacks depth. It is evident, therefore, that with few exceptions the soils 
of the Piedmont erode whenever the slope is favorable. 

Since erosion is primarily due to the failure of the soil to absorb rain- 
fall, followed by rapid flow of the accumulated surface water, it can be 
lessened by any means which will promote absorption or lessen the 
rapidity of the run-off. 

ABSORPTION OP WATER BY SOILS. 
The usual means for promoting absorption of rainfall by soils are by 
deeper plowing and by increasing the amount of humus in the soil. Both 
of these practices are undoubtedly advisable in managing most lands. 
Humus is secured by manuring or by plowing under a green crop. The 
increase of the humus content is particularly demanded on the heavy 
soils, although for certain crops it is inadvisable to add too large an 
amount of organic matter. The texture of bright tobacco is injured by 
an excess of humus, especially of legumes; rye humus is not injurious. 
Corn may preceed tobacco on a legume humus. When present in large 
quantities, humus produces, in the short growing season of most portions 
of Piedmont North Carolina, too weedy a cotton stalk, delaying maturity 
and lessening the amount of the top crop. This last condition, however, 
is infrequently realized and on most soils devoted to cotton culture a very 
large addition to the humus content can be made with the certainty of 
increasing the yield of cotton as well as lessening the tendency of the soil 



26 TERRACING OF FARM LANDS. 

to erode. The excess of nitrogen in legume humus may be balanced for 
cotton by the use of fertilizer deficient in nitrogen. It has recently been 
pointed out by the Georgia Agricultural Experiment Station, from ex- 
periments carried on in that State, that plowing deeper than 8 inches 
tended to lessen the yield of cotton. Comparatively little land prepared 
for cotton in North Carolina is plowed to that depth, however, and even 
plowing to that depth could do much to increase the water-carrying 
capacity of the soils subject to erosion. But, as a matter of fact, only a 
small amount of land in the Piedmont is plowed even 6 inches deep, while 
much of it is not plowed deeper than 4 inches. While it may be true that 
it is not advisable to plow to a greater depth than 8 inches for cotton, 
this is not true in regard to either corn or peas, which make greater 
demands on soil moisture than cotton. The low yields of corn especially 
can be attributed more largely to a deficiency of soil moisture than any 
other reason. A wet growing season invariably means a heavy corn crop 
on the uplands of the Piedmont. 

METHODS OF LESSENING EEOSION. 

With the heavy concentrated rainfall which frequently takes place in 
the South, neither deep plowing nor an addition of humus can be relied 
upon to prevent erosion, although on land with only a gentle slope they 
considerably lessen it. Precipitations of 2 to 3 inches within an hour's 
time are not infrequent in summer showers, and they occasionally fall on 
earth which still contains a high percentage of water from previous rains. 
Theoretically, a soil in good tilth, deeply plowed, and containing a large 
amount of humus can absorb 4 to 5 inches of rainfall. The concentrated 
precipitation, however, which occurs in the South, frequently so compacts 
the surface that absorption is retarded and rapid run-off takes place, pro- 
ducing erosion. This condition has necessitated various artificial methods 
of soil conservation by terraces, hillside ditches, and dikes. 

Dikes or Flat Dikes. — These consist of broad low mounds located 
nearly on a level, the cultivated rows in tilled crops crossing them. They 
are adapted only to land of gentle gradient. 

Hillside Ditches. — These are channels supported by a strong embank- 
ment on the lower side. They are used on land of steeper grade for re- 
ducing erosion by collecting the water on strips between the ditches and 
conducting it through the ditch at a reduced fall, and consequently with 
lower eroding power, to a convenient hollow where the ditch empties. 

Terraced Land.— In terracing, the land is built up in a series of steps, 
the intervals between the steps or rises being nearly or quite level (Pis. 
II and VI, A and B). Incomplete terraces are those in process of de- 



METHODS OF LESSENING EROSION. 27 

velopment, the rises being slight and the slope of the intervening strip yet 
relatively steep. There is little or no run-off and no erosion from com- 
pletely developed terraces. 

There are two methods of diking used in North Carolina, neither un- 
fortunately being very extensively employed. One is the Mangum dike 
(called terrace) which is adapted to land of only the most gentle slope. 
The other is the McLendon dike which can be used on somewhat steeper 
land. 

The Mangum Dike. — This dike should be 4 to 5 feet broad and not 
less than one foot high on gentle slopes, the height increasing to 2 feet on 
hillsides the slopes of which amount to one foot in fifty, the maximum 
grade on which it should be used. It should have a fall of not more than 
one-half inch to the rod. When tilled crops are planted, the rows which 
cross the dikes obliquely should be so laid off as to have no greater fall 
than the dikes. 

The McLendon Dike. — Steeper slopes can be cultivated by use of this 
dike. It is located on a level and built up very broad, 10 to 15 feet at 
base and 18 to 24 inches high. The rows are run in cultivated crops on a 
level, along the dike as well as on the intervening strips. 

Dikes require strengthening every year as there is always some erosion 
from the lower slope and the upper slope tends to become level. The fall 
between two adjacent dikes should not exceed 3 feet. 

Their use permits, when the surface will allow it, the cultivation of 
large fields having gentle slope without division into smaller areas, which 
is a necessary practice when terracing is required. There is no wasted 
land, as is the case with ditching and terracing. Diking, as already 
stated, is adapted only to the most gentle slopes ; while deep plowing and 
a high content of humus to maintain mellowness and promote absorption 
are necessary adjuncts. Diked land tends to develop into a terraced sys- 
tem and would, if it were not that constant cultivation across the dike 
prevented the building up of the outer face. 

Hillside Ditches. — These ditches are located with a sufficient fall to 
drain the water rapidly. Their spacing is closer the steeper the slope. 
The ditches are reinforced by a strongly built dike on the lower side. 
They limit vertical erosion, but erosion continues to take place in the 
ditches. 

On land of gentle slope, diking is superior to hillside ditches, while on 
steeper slopes terracing is superior. Ditches are objectionable on land of 
any character. On gentle slopes they increase the cost of tillage above 
dikes and add a considerable proportion of waste land; on steeper slopes 
they do not prevent erosion, since soil transportation, flat erosion (PL 



28 TERRACING OF FARM LANDS. 

Ill), proceeds continuously, constantly removing the finer particles of 
soil and humus, and draining off the water, which is one of the most essen- 
tial elements of fertility. An examination of many farms on which dik- 
ing and hillside ditching are practiced leads to the conclusion that hill- 
side ditching should be entirely abandoned, no matter how gentle the 
slope of the ditch ; and that diking is applicable only to lands of the most 
gentle gradient. 

Terraces.- — It is usual to develop terraces gradually by means of high 
dikes located on a level, or nearly so. In their method of construction 
they are similar to hillside ditches, but are deficient in fall. Unfortu- 
nately, most of the so-called terracing is not such, and is planned in such 
a way that its efficiency is seldom greater than that of ditches laid off 
with a fall of 1 to 3 feet to the hundred feet, a sufficient fall to remove 
not only the water but a large amount of fine soil. Erosion continually 
takes place and terraces fail to develop. 

Terracing rightly planned and well executed is so infrequent as to be 
noteworthy ; and this is especially so when the gradient of the land is at 
all steep. There have been some well terraced farms in this State and a 
few are yet to be seen, but too frequently they have been poorly planned 
or poorly developed, and have failed to produce the results intended. 

As is seen from PL II, soil erosion and soil preservation are by no means 
a problem local to the Southern States, but is common to all countries 
with heavy intermittent rainfalls, hilly lands and close soils. In China 
the preservation of the soil on hills and mountain slopes has been effected 
only by terracing. Slopes not so protected have been destroyed by less 
than three centuries of continuous tillage. The question arises with us 
as to how our slopes will look after 300 years of corn and cotton culture. 

OBJECTIONS TO TERRACES. 
The chief objections which can be urged against terraces are: 

(1) There is a considerable proportion of waste land. This is less, 
however, than with ditches. 

(2) The banks harbor weeds. This is also the case to a less degree 
than ditch hanks, sinco only one face is exposed for their growth. 

(3) There is difficulty in getting a team from one terrace to another. 
This can be obviated only by leaving a small strip at each end of the field 
unterraced and kept in good turf. Turnings of the team can be made on 
it. In California, hillsides are sometimes terraced for irrigation. This 
requires the intervals between the rises to he well levelled, yet by means 
of the slope at one end teams and farm tools are readily moved from ter- 
race to terrace. 



N. C. GEOLOGICAL AND ECONOMIC SURVEY 



BULLETIN NO. 1 7 '. PLATE VI 




A. A STEEP, WELL TERRACED SLOPE IN MIDDLE NORTH CAROLINA. ALTHOUGH THE TERRACES ARE 
NARROW, THEY ARE NEARLY LEVEL, AND EROSION IS SLIGHT. (COURTESY OF BUREAU OF SOILS.) 




INCOMPLETE TERRACES WELL LOCATED BUT TOO FAR APART, THE RISE BETWEEN THEM BEING TOO 
GREAT. AT LEAST ONE INTERVENING TERRACE SHOULD HAVE BEEN CONSTRUCTED. 



CONSTRUCTION OP TERRACES. 29 

These drawbacks are more than offset by the gain from increased 
yield and the greater ease of maintaining soil in good tilth. It is possi- 
ble that in some very heavy soils terracing might make soils too wet for 
early spring plowing. If this should take place in any case it could 
easily be corrected by blind drains, either of tile or of green pine poles. 

CONSTRUCTION OF TERRACES. 
Terraces are largely developed by means of erosion, the very agent they 
are intended to lessen. The earth which is scoured from the slopes is 
deposited at the foot of the slope unti] aggrading has proceeded so far 
that erosion no longer takes place. The rapidity with which the deposit 
accumulates before leveling has reduced the slope, shows the extent to 
which erosion was taking place under open slope cultivation. 

There are four very important stages in the development of terraces as 
follows : 

First. To locate on a level, or nearly so, lines which follow the slope. 
The rise between each line, on which the terrace will subsequently be 
developed, should, at a maximum, not exceed 4 feet. The lines are approx- 
imately parallel. 

Second. To construct with plows a strong dike or embankment of 
earth on the lines which have been located. A ditch is on the upper side 
or inside of the dike. As earth eroded from the slopes accumulates in the 
ditch it is used for increasing the height of the dike, until the leveling 
process is completed. If Bermuda grass is abundant the dike should be 
turfed with it. If it is not, red top or meadow oat grass should be used, 
or even one of the hardier vetches to give protection during winter and 
spring. 

Third. To constantly watch and strengthen these dikes, especially 
during and after rains, until they have become thoroughly consolidated 
and turfed, or, until the slope has been greatly reduced by leveling. Holes 
made by mice, moles, rats and sometimes muskrats must be carefully 
noticed and stopped. 

Fourth. To plow so as to turn the soil only towards the lower dike. 
This facilitates the leveling, lessens the danger of breaks in the banks, 
and prevents an undue deposit of the most fertile surface soil in the ditch 
on the upper side of the dike as the. process of leveling by filling proceeds. 

In order to develop terraces which are nearly level from the outer crest 
of one terrace to the foot of the one above, the rise between the two 
adjacent terraces should never exceed 4 feet, and on gentle slopes a rise of 
3 feet is more advisable (see Fig. 2). When there is danger of an ex- 
cessive accumulation of water it is preferable to have low rises and develop 



30 TERRACING OF FARM LANDS. 

temporary intermediate terraces which can be plowed tip when the. em- 
bankment of the permanent terrace becomes well consolidated and turfed. 
Many of the terraces on the State farm near Columbia, South Carolina, 
on a sandy loam soil, rise more than 4 feet, and in spite of their steep, 
almost vertical slopes, are so well turfed with Bermuda grass that they 
hold with no indication of weakness. When it is considered necessary to 
have a slight grade to the ditch on account of large collection of water, 
the fall should not exceed J inch to a rod, and preferably £ inch. A fall 
of this amount will remove a large quantity of water very quickly, yet 
will allow some sedimentation of silt and clay, at least during moderate 
rains. If a greater fall than this is allowed a ditch is developed. The 
velocity of the water is too rapid to allow sedimentation except of gravel 
and coarsest sand, while the silt and light organic matter, which are the 
most valuable portion of the soil, are borne off in the muddy water to the 
impoverishment of the land. 

The work of locating terraces should begin at the foot of the slope. 
The work of construction of dikes and ditches should begin with the upper 
terrace. 

Locating Terrace Lines. — The lines of terraces can be laid off either 
with a surveyor's theodolite or transit ; or a more simple home-made tri- 
angle, furnished with either plumb bob or level, can be used. The method 
of laying off the lines of terraces with a transit requires no explanation. 
It is important, however, that every land owner should know how to cor- 
rectly lay off his own dikes. He can do it satisfactorily with the 
triangle. 

The triangle 10 should be made of sound, well-seasoned lumber with 
straight edges, and should be sufficiently rigid to be handled without 
bending (fig. 1). 

On a base 10 feet 8 inches long, of 1 x 4 inch board, complete the tri- 
angle by using two pieces 7 feet 6 inches long. The pieces should be so 
nailed that it will be 10 feet along the top of the base board between the 
inside of the two sides. It should be 7 feet -| inch on the inside of each 
of the sides. 

Lay off 3 feet 8 inches above the base board along the inner edge of the 
sides and carefully nail a cross bar joining the two short sides so that its 
upper edge will be exactly at the 3 foot 8 inch mark. This cross bar must 
be a straight edge. 

If a plumb bob is used, it can be hung from the angle made by the 
hort sides. When the base is level it should hang in its center and this 

10 Triangles of this kind ;i r<- used In the west for grading Irrigation ditches. See 
Newells' Irrigation, p, 106, 



CONSTRUCTION OF TERRACES. 31 

should be marked. A vertical board from the base to the apex of the 
triangle, with broad staples in it through which the plumb line can 
swing, will limit the swing of the plumb bob and facilitate handling the 
triangle. 

If a level is used, it is fastened to the center of the cross bar. It should 
be tested and adjusted before being fastened. If the cross arm has been 
correctly put on, when the bubble is in the center of the level the base of 
the triangle will be level. The level should be so fastened as to leave a 
narrow edge of the top of the cross arm clear for sighting. A projecting 
block one inch long should be nailed at the bottom of one end of the 
base board (M of fig. 1). The projection of the peg on which the other 
end rests should also be one inch. The block lessens the trouble with 
stones, clods, etc. which would be in the way of the base board. 



j^ 10 6 n 

Fig. 1.— Triangle used in locating dikes. AB base board, 10 feet 8 incbes long. AG 
and CB side pieces, 7 feet 6 incbes long. DE cross-bar. L sbows tbe location of the 
level. Plumb-bob hangs from G to middle of AB. M inch-high projection. 

Use of the Triangle. — If it is intended to lay off level lines for dikes 
or embankments, the triangle is ready for use. Flat-topped pegs 6 to 8 
inches long should be provided. One will be required each 10 feet; 
though if the curves are large, intermediate ones can be removed as the 
work proceeds. 

The triangle is used in this way for level lines. A peg is driven until 
its top is within 1 inch of the ground, or the height of the projection on 
the base of the triangle. The end of the base of the triangle with no 
block is placed on this peg. The end with the block is moved until the 
plumb or bubble in the level shows the base to be on a level. A peg is 
then driven at the point where the projecting block is, its depth being 
adjusted until the triangle reads level. The triangle is then moved for- 



33 TERRACING OF FARM LANDS. 



ward the end without the projecting block being placed on the last pe«r 
and the operation is repeated. The tops of the rows of pegs will each pro- 
ject 1 inch above the earth and will be on a level. 

If it is desired to lay off the lines for the embankment with a fall the 
short sides of the triangle must be of different lengths. For a fall of 1 
inch in 10 feet let the distance to the cross arm be shortened to 3 feet 
? 11/16 inches on one side. For. a fall of i inch in 10 feet, let the dis- 
tance be shortened to 3 feet 7 25/32 inches on one side of the triangle 
Let the distance on the other side remain 3 feet 8 inches. The short end 
should be marked. In laying off, the short end will be the higher, and the 
slope will be from that end. The inch block shonld be at the long end 
The same method of laying off is followed which has already been 
described. 

The approximate rise between terraces is also determined by means of 
the triangle Turn it at right angles to the terrace which has just been 
laid off and level it carefully on pegs, letting one end of the base board 
res on one of the line pegs. A sight along the cross bar towards the hill 
will then locate a point 3 feet, or the height of the cross bar, above the 
terrace line just located. 

When there are outcrops of large tight rocks, the terrace should pre- 
ferably be located to include them. If their projection above the surface 
is slight, they may be located above the dike, since they will be so deeply 
buned in the course of leveling as not to interfere with plowing If 
their projection is such that they will not be covered to a depth of at least 
one foot, they should be left below the terrace. 

BUILDING UP THE TEREACES. 

The method of dike or embankment construction is generally too well 
understood to require explanation (see Fig. 2). Earth should be thrown 
with the plow on the located line from both lower and upper sides. Large 
loose stones can advantageously be piled along the located line before 
plowmg. The embankment should be built especially strong in the hol- 
lows and "swags" where a large volume of water rapidly gathers fre- 
quently with high momentum, and where both undermining and over- 
washing are most likely to take place. It is frequently advisable to 
strengthen such pouts at the upper convex side by making a facino- of 
inch boards, driven vertically side by side into the earth. Where the em- 
bankmenl dike rounds the crest of a sharp ridge, the deep concave bend on 
the upper side is extremely likely to erode if the ditch of the terrace has 
;"" r r; ', " t0 lL The wc;akeRt Point is at and just below the center of the 
l '"'" 1 "*ew the -rod,,,,, power of the water, as it changes its course, is 



BUILDING UP THE TERRACES. 33 

greatest. A facing of boards will frequently be advisable bere. Stone 
can often be used in place of boards. 

Dikes sbould be constructed with the largest plows available. The field 
should be plowed at the same time that dikes are made. This increases the 
absorptive capacity of the soil and lessens the possibility of breaks in the 
dikes, which are weak for the first year until thoroughly consolidated. In 
plowing the strips between the dikes there are many short furrows. It is 
preferable to locate these short furrows either in the middle of the strip 
or against the upper dike. Since there is always some fall from the short 
furrows, the drain from them, if they open against the lower dike, tends 
to increase the quantity of water which accumulates against this dike. 
This is more essential in laying off for tillage than in plowing. 

The weak point in the current practice is that the ditch is given too 
much fall and there is consequent failure of the filling or leveling process. 



c 




b 



Fig. 2 a. — Terrace in process of formation, using level dikes and hillside plowing. 
A, dike. B, lower slope or face of dike. G, upper or ditch slope of dike. b. Completed 
or levelled terrace. 

Frequently, after an interval of ten years, the ditch is yet open, being 
scoured clean by each heavy rain; and, since the hillside slope has not 
been materially reduced, destructive erosion is yet taking place. More- 
over, unless filling takes place, ditches and dikes must be kept in repair 
at considerable cost. 

Leveling. — Leveling can be hastened by the use of hillside plows. 
These differ from the plow in general use by having the mold board 
reversible. This permits the earth from every furrow to be turned down 
the slope. By using this plow the first furrow is turned into the ditch of 
the lower dike, while the last is turned away from the base of the upper 
dike. This greatly quickens leveling (see Pig. 2). An additional advan- 
tage is that there are no furrows up and down the slope which are subject 
to gully, and, since plowing is on a level, the draft is easier on the team. 
There is also no dead furrow or balk. 



34 TERRACING OF FARM LANDS. 

There are three general types of plows which are adapted to work of 
this character : 

1. The Walking Hillside Plow. — The mold board of this plow is re- 
versed by hand at the end of each furrow. This permits plowing very 
close to dike banks and is especially suited to small or narrow terraces. 
This plow is usually made in a two-horse size. It is adapted to level as 
well as slope lands, and can be used without turning the mold board if it 
is desired to do so. When only one heavy plow is used, it should be one 
of this character. 

2. The Reversible Dish Plow. — These plows are sulky, made in two, 
three or four-horse sizes. They cut deep and wide, but are not suited to 
very stony land, since their cutting is on the principle of the disk harrow. 
They do well, however, on heavy clays. They do not admit of plowing 
quite so close to the dikes as with the hand plow. An additional point in 
their favor is that having no landside, they do not tend to compact the 
bottom of the furrow as do landside plows. The reversible disk plow is 
extensively used in northern Georgia. 

3. The Two-share Mold Board Plow. — This plow seems to be made 
by only one American firm. It is adapted to a greater variety of soils and 
conditions than the disk plow, and there is a place for it on every large 
farm with an extensive area of gentle hillslide land. It is a sulky plow, 
made in two and three-horse sizes, with two shares, right and left, either 
of which can be raised by a lever enabling all the furrows to be turned 
in the same direction. 

RECLAMATION OF WASHED LAND. 

There are two classes of eroded land. One can be reclaimed profitably 
for farming purposes ; the other cannot. Land to be profitably reclaimed 
must not be too deeply gullied; the soil must be of good quality, and 
have so moderate a slope that it can be terraced. A satisfactory method 
of filling gullies is to place in them small pine boughs with the stick por- 
tion turned down the slope. Grain straw can be substituted for the pine 
bough. Plow deeply the strip intervening between the gullies, lifting 
the plow across the gullies; then harrow. Both plowing and harrowing 
should be entirely on a level, never up and down the slope. Plant at once 
in field peas, using, if broadcast, not less than 5 pecks to the acre. In 
early fall turn under the pea vines and plant at once in rye. The fol- 
lowing spring terracing should be begun. 

Land which is too badly washed or too steep, too 1 rocky or shallow- 
soiled to be reclaimed for farming purposes, should be planted in trees. 
The native pine is one of the most satisfactoiy trees. Seedlings 1 to 2 



SUMMARY. 35 

feet high taken from fence rows, old fields or very open woods should be 
used. Lay off on a level deep furrows 5 feet apart. Plant the trees 5 feet 
apart in the furrows, placing them no deeper than they stood at first. 
Press the earth firmly around the roots of the trees with the feet. Plant 
a row in the bottom of each gully. Red and black oak can be used in 
place of the pine, or mixed with it. If a large number of tree seedlings 
have to be used they can be cheaply grown. Write to the State Geologist, 
Chapel Hill, N. C, for directions for growing seedlings and planting 
trees on washed or other waste land. 

' SUMMAKY. 
Terracing is more than an artificial means of preventing erosion. Its 
beneficial effects may be summed up as follows : 

1. A reduction in the constant cost and labor of maintaining a tillable 
surface soil which is free from gullies. 

2. An increase in general fertility. 

a. By an addition to the available soil moisture through soil storage, 
by lessening run-off, especially of summer rains. 

~b. By an increase in the humus content. Humus is one of the chief 
elements of fertility and is one of the means of storing moisture. It also 
retains much of the valuable soil solution which is lost in a soil deficient 
in humus. 

c. By reducing the loss of soluble plant food and of the finer particles 
of soil. A portion of this loss is yearly replaced by commercial fertilizer. 

3. There is a corresponding increase in land values. 

4. In addition to reducing erosion, there is another urgent requirement 
of the soils of middle North Carolina. This is humus, the organic or 
manural portion of the soil. On account of the much greater loss of soil 
moisture by evaporation, this constituent must be larger in southern soils 
than in northern soils of the same texture. Terracing conserves the 
water, but the texture of the soil must be such that absorption of the rain- 
fall must take place rapidly and without puddling or baking the soil. 
Deep plowing in connection with this is also necessary to give greater 
storage capacity, lest soils, after heavy rains, remain too wet for working. 

Since few cattle are kept in the south, the manure is insufficient for 
maintaining humus. In the cattle-raising sections the grass sod, grass 
being one crop in the usual rotation which is plowed under, also adds a 
large amount of humus. In Piedmont, North Carolina it is necessary to 
plow under a green crop to secure this. The North Carolina Department 
of Agriculture has issued several valuable papers on this subject. The 
most valuable crops to plow under are legumes, which include clover, 



36 TERRACING OV FARM LANDS. 

peas, vetch, beans, or rye. Of these, perhaps crimson clover, cow peas, 
and rye are best suited for middle North Carolina. They should be used 
in connection with a definite system of rotation. The humus crop should 
follow the cotton or tobacco crop, since an excess is often injurious to 
these crops; deepest plowing should be for com, if it proves true that 
this lessens the yield of cotton. Deep plowing means from 8 to 10 inches. 
There is another aspect of erosion in which the land owner is less per- 
sonally interested, though it cannot but affect him. A part of the silt and 
sand from the slopes destroys his bottoms. The other portion of it is 
swept past in the streams. Some settles in the reservoirs of dams and re- 
duces the value of the water power of the streams and affects the indus- 
tries dependent upon them. A portion settles further down in the chan- 
nels of the navigable rivers, lessening their value and rendering naviga- 
tion hazardous. While still another portion forms a part of the silt bars 
in the harbors, reducing their depth and necessitating constant dredging 
to maintain depth of harbor. The silt, clay and sand burden of the 
streams of the Piedmont probably amounts to more than 4,000,000 tons 
a year, the greater portion of which comes from the farms. The welfare 
of the entire State demands that this enormous quantity of soil, rich in 
humus, and in soluble plant food, be retained on the farms to maintain 
their fertility and not permitted to be washed into the rivers to destroy 
their earning value. Natural resources, when once destroyed, cannot be 
replaced. The civilization of a people is determined by the advantageous 
use they make of the gifts of nature. 



PUBLICATIONS 

OF THE 

NORTH CAROLINA GEOLOGICAL AND ECONOMIC SURVEY. 



BULLETINS. 

1. Iron Ores of North Carolina, by Henry B. C. Nitze, 1893. 8°, 239 pp., 20 
pi., and map. Postage 10 cents. 

2. Building and Ornamental Stones in North Carolina, by T. L. Watson and 
P. B. Laney in collaboration with George P. Merrill, 1906. 8°, 283 pp., 32 pi., 
2 figs. Postage 25 cents. Cloth-bound copy SO cents extra. 

3. Gold Deposits in North Carolina, by Henry B. C. Nitze and George B. 
Hanna, 1896. 8°, 196 pp., 14 pi., and map. Out of print. 

4. Road Material and Road Construction in North Carolina, by J. A. Holmes 
and William Cain, 1893. 8°, 88 pp. Out of print. 

5. The Forests, Forest Lands and Forest Products of Eastern North Caro- 
lina, by W. W. Ashe, 1894. 8°, 128 pp., 5 pi. Postage 5 cents. 

6. The Timber Trees of North Carolina, by Gifford Pinchot and W. W. Ashe, 
1897. 8°, 227 pp., 22 pi. Postage 10 cents. 

7. Forest Fires: Their Destructive Work, Causes and Prevention, by W. W. 
Ashe, 1895. 8°, 66 pp., 1 pi. Postage 5 cents. 

8. Water-powers in North Carolina, by George F. Swain, Joseph A. Holmes 
and E. W. Myers, 1899. 8°, 362 pp., 16 pi. Postage 16 cents. 

9. Monazite and Monazite Deposits in North Carolina, by Henry B. C. Nitze, 
1895. 8°, 47 pp., 5 pi. Postage 4 cents. 

10. Gold Mining in North Carolina and other Appalachian States, by Henry 
B. C. Nitze and A. J. Wilkins, 1897. 8°, 164 pp., 10 pi. Postage 10 cents. 

11. Corundum and the Basic Magnesian Rocks of Western North Carolina, 
by J. Volney Lewis, 1895. 8°, 107 pp., 6 pi. Postage k cents. 

12. History of the Gems Found in North Carolina, by George Frederick 
Kunz, 1907. 8°, 60 pp., 15 pi. Postage 8 cents. Cloth-bound copy 80 cents 
extra. 

13. Clay Deposits and Clay Industries in North Carolina, by Heinrich Ries, 
1897. 8°, 157 pp., 12 pi. Postage 10 cents. 

14. The Cultivation of the Diamond-back Terrapin, by R. E. Coker, 1906. 
8°, 67 pp., 23 pi., 2 figs. Postage 6 cents. 

15. Experiments in Oyster Culture in Pamlico Sound, North Carolina, by 
Robert E. Coker, 1907. 8°, 74 pp., 17 pi., 11 figs. Postage 6 cents. 

16. Shade Trees for North Carolina, by W. W. Ashe. In press. 

17. Terracing of Farm Lands, by W. W. Ashe, 1908. 8°, 38 pp., 6 pi., 2 figs. 
Postage h cents. 

18. A List of Elevations in North Carolina, by Joseph Hyde Pratt. In 
preparation. 

19. The Tin Deposits of the Carolinas, by Joseph Hyde Pratt and Douglass 
B. Sterrett, 1905. 8°, 64 pp., 8 figs. Postage 1+ cents. 

20. The Loblolly Pine in Eastern North Carolina, by W. W. Ashe. In 
preparation. 

ECONOMIC PAPERS. 

1. The Maple-Sugar Industry in Western North Carolina, by W. W. Ashe, 
1897. 8°, 34 pp. Postage 2 cents. 



38 LIST OF PUBLICATIONS. 

2. Recent Road Legislation in North Carolina, by J. A. Holmes. Out of 
print. 

3. Talc and Pyrophillite Deposits in North Carolina, by Joseph Hyde Pratt, 
1900. 8°, 29 pp., 2 maps. Postage 2 cents. 

4. The Mining Industry in North Carolina during 1900, by Joseph Hyde 
Pratt, 1901. 8°, 36 pp., and map. Postage 2 cents. 

5. Road Laws of North Carolina, by J. A. Holmes. Out of print. 

6. The Mining Industry in North Carolina During 1901, by Joseph Hyde 
Pratt, 1902. 8°, 102 pp. Postage 4 cents. 

7. Mining Industry in North Carolina During 1902, by Joseph Hyde Pratt, 
1903. 8°, 27 pp. Postage 2 cents. 

S. The Mining Industry in North Carolina During 1903, by Joseph Hyde 
Pratt, 1904. 8°, 74 pp. Postage 4 cents. 

9. The Mining Industry in North Carolina During 1904, by Joseph Hyds 
Pratt, 1905. 8°, 95 pp. Postage 4 cents. 

10. Oyster Culture in North Carolina, by Robert E. Coker, 1905. 8°, 39 pp. 
Postage 2 cents. 

11. The Mining Industry in North Carolina During 1905, by Joseph Hyde 
Pratt, 1906. 8°, 95 pp. Postage 4 cents. 

12. Investigations Relative to the Shad Fisheries of North Carolina, by 
John N. Cobb, 1906. 8°, 74 pp., 8 maps. Postage 6 cents. 

13. Report of Committee on Fisheries in North Carolina. Compiled by 
Joseph Hyde Pratt, 1906. 8°, 78 pp. Postage 4 cents. 

14. The Mining Industry in North Carolina During 1906, by Joseph Hyde 
Pratt, 1907. 8°, 144 pp., 20 pi., and 5 figs. Postage 12 cents. 

15. The Mining Industry in North Carolina During 1907, by Joseph Hyde 
Pratt, 1908. In preparation. 

VOLUMES. 

Vol. I. Corundum and the Basic Magnesian Rocks in Western North Caro- 
lina, by Joseph Hyde Pratt and J. Volney Lewis, 1905. 8°, 464 pp., 44 pi., 35 
figs. Postage 32 cents. Cloth-bound copy 80 cents extra. 

Vol. II. Fishes of North Carolina, by H. M. Smith, 1907. 8°, 453 pp., 21 pi., 
188 figs. Postage 30 cents. Cloth-bound copies 30 cents extra. 

Vol. III. Mineral Resources of North Carolina, by Joseph Hyde Pratt. In 
preparation. 



Samples of any mineral found in the State may be sent to the office of the 
Geological and Economic Survey for identification, and the same will be 
classified free of charge. It must be understood, however, that no assays, 
ok quantitative deteuminations, will ue made. Samples should be in a 
lump form if possible, and marked plainly on outside of package with name 
of sender, post-office address, etc.; a letter should accompany sample and 
■stamp should be enclosed for reply. 



These publications arc mailed to libraries and to individuals who may 
desire information on any of the special subjects named, free of charge, 
except that in each case applicants for the reports should forward the 
amount of postage needed, as indicated above, for mailing the bulletins 
desired, to the Htate Geologist, Chapel Hill, N. C. 



\TE LIBRARY OF NORTH CAROLINA 



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J.